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Hypermobile, Sustainable or Safe? Imagined Childhoods in the Neo-liberal Transport System

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Abstract

Research on children’s mobility assumes that children’s independent mobility is important for children’s development, health and well-being, while a decline in children’s independent mobility has occurred. The chapter analyses how children are addressed in regional and municipal transport policies in Uppsala, Sweden. Three rationales are identified which produce particular subjects: a hypermobile subject framed within a discourse of economic growth, a sustainable subject within a caring rationale, and a safe subject within a risk rationale. The discursive absence of children as a social group is discussed, in relation to a parallel sub-discourse of children as particularly protection-worthy. Children are cast as either political non-subjects or apolitical subjects, complicating the formulation of political demands. In conclusion, the chapter discusses the effects age-blind policy-making in transportation politics has on transport planning and urban space.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In Sweden, research participants under 15 years of age are accessed through their guardians (SFS 2003: 460). In Trivector’s report, it is not clear whether the survey was answered by the children or their parents/an adult, although the survey was directed at children in the age range of 6–15 years. The survey was sent out to 7870 children, and the response rate was 54%. The survey by Trafikverket (2012) has been carried out every third year since 2000. The survey is addressed to parents, and in the latest study 2800 children between 6 and 15 years were targeted, with a response rate of 62.1%.

  2. 2.

    Urry’s (2004b: 28) taxonomy of five interdependent mobilities includes: ‘the corporeal travel of people to work, leisure, family life, pleasure, migration and escape, organized in terms of contrasting time-space patterns ranging from daily commuting to once-in-a-lifetime exile; the physical movement of objects include food and water producers, consumers and retailers; as well as the sending and receiving of presents and souvenirs; the imaginative travel effected through the images of places and peoples appearing on and moving across multiple print and visual media and which then construct and reconstruct visions of place, travel and consumption; virtual travel often in real time transcending geographical and social distance and forming and reforming multiple communities at a distance; communicative travel through person-to-person messages via personal messages, postcards, texts, letters, telegraph, telephone, fax and mobile’.

  3. 3.

    This policy analysis is part of a larger ethnographic research project, in which 59 children, aged 7–13 years, and 33 parents/guardians have been participating. Findings from the ethnographic part of the project are discussed in two other articles: one concerning children’s perspectives on their mobilities (Joelsson forthcoming a), and the other addressing parents’ risk-management practices and parenting cultures (Joelsson forthcoming b).

  4. 4.

    Commuting to Stockholm County makes up a significant proportion of the labour-force mobility (15,800 individuals commuting from Uppsala compared to 6229 commuting from Stockholm County to Uppsala). In comparison, 10,573 individuals commute to other municipalities within Uppsala County, whereas 3464 individuals from Uppsala commute to other municipalities within the county. See https://www.uppsala.se/contentassets/f09f9e6b994f41408c66064a2da8470b/statistisk-folder_sv.pdf

  5. 5.

    However, the geopolitical situation in Europe and the rest of the world, forcing large groups of people to move (around), challenge and complicate the notion of children as rights-holders and citizens (cf. Kjørholt 2008). Kjørholt (2008: 33) argues that a difference-centred approach to citizenship ‘broadens the concept of participation, relating the practice of participation rights to belonging and community, […] [thus] recognizing children as citizens in a manner that includes their vulnerability and dependency in the concept of citizenship’.

    Although the focus of my study is on well-off children with Swedish citizenship, global processes and events influence the national arena. They relate to the ongoing dialogue around protection vs. participation, and the relation to neo-liberalism (see, e.g. Kohan et al. 2015).

  6. 6.

    The RTTC framework has been subjected to critique, notably for its assumed urban and middle-class bias. The RTTC framework in its conventional use can be seen as neglecting questions of age and generation as well, although the theoretical space for such elaborations is easily available.

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Joelsson, T. (2019). Hypermobile, Sustainable or Safe? Imagined Childhoods in the Neo-liberal Transport System. In: Scholten, C., Joelsson, T. (eds) Integrating Gender into Transport Planning. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-05042-9_10

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